By Kellene Bishop
I’m convinced that the difference between peace and misery is practice—especially when it comes to preparedness. Practice is a very powerful educator and every time I practice it is a time I learn something new; see the scenario a little differently, recognize weaknesses which cause me to reevaluate and recognize strengths which gives me peace and confidence—something that is always in short supply amidst a crisis. I’m talking about practicing living like you envision having to live in a long-term power outage; practice cooking and eating what you have on your shelves; practice using the equipment that you intend to rely on; and practice filtering that water, etc.
When I was making dinner for over 40 friends and the crew for “Doomsday Preppers” show, a whole lot of things went wrong in the kitchen, in addition to the fact that I was exhausted from the previous day’s 16 hours. As you know, when you’re tired, your coping skills go way down. (In fact, as I watched our segment, I could tell you which day a portion was filmed based on how much more I could hear my “Ohio hick accent” come out. The more tired I am, the more likely one is to hear a little twang.) But in spite of being tired, because I was very, very comfortable in the kitchen with these particular dishes and with the particular ingredients I had opted to use, I surprised myself with how smoothly things went even when the speed bumps manifested themselves. The cake didn’t set right? No problem, we’ll purposefully flatten it out, pour a lemon crème over the top and then a layer of blueberry puree over the top of that, and voila! We have something tasty and visually appealing enough to be a $10 dessert in NYC.
The merits of practicing rather than just stocking up on “things” and calling it good is traced back to the 2nd Principle of Preparedness which is Mental Preparedness. The more you can experience and be comfortable with now, the easier it will be for you to deal with a curveball later, and believe me, there’s a significant difference between doing something for the first time amidst stressful circumstances, and doing something that’s “old hat”. Even high stress scenarios won’t phase the unflappable. Any police officer, fireman, military member, chef, event coordinator, thespian or start athlete is intimately aware of the value of practice. Practice not only lowers your stress levels but it literally frees up important parts of your brain that you can use to handle the curveballs that may come with the scenario. For example, in 9th grade I attended seminary. We were to have a scripture chase competition in which we had to know what the scripture said and where in the scriptures it was found to the point that we could quickly open our scriptures to the proper page. Having never participated or attended a scripture chase event, I didn’t know if the emphasis was on the knowledge of what the scripture was, where it was, or who could get to the page the fastest, so I put myself through a boot camp of sorts at home for the entire week leading up to the contest. I made quiz cards for myself to help me memorize the scriptures and where they were and then I made my brother quiz me as craftily as he wanted while I flipped through the pages of my scriptures. By the end of the week, my scriptures were so well worn on the various 50 scripture locations, that I could get to the scripture page with one flip of the book because I was so familiar with every crease, bulge, coloration, and wrinkle of my scriptures. And ta da! Yep, I did win the regional scripture chase event. (How’s that for a resume entry, eh? *grin*)
When I purchased my first sun oven, my biggest mistake was just putting it away in the basement and checking it off on my list of things to acquire. But simply owning a sun oven in anticipation of some long-term power outage was no more helpful than my purchasing a guitar without any music lessons and expecting to perform well in Nashville someday.
One of the many ways that Preparedness Pro sticks out from the litany of “survivalist, emergency preparedness” stuff on the internet is because I believe in approaching readiness in a practical AND peaceful manner. On the Facebook page, I frequently post links to all of the various articles that I come across each day that I feel have a place “on my radar”, so to speak. In other words, they are something that encourages me to push harder towards self-reliance, provide me with evidence that I’m not crazy in that pursuit, give me information that may cause me to tweak a particular area of my preparedness, or sometimes just strengthen my resolve. On one particular day there were a LOT of articles that fell more in the category of “push me to work harder on my preparedness efforts.” In other words, the news wasn’t of the “Sunshine, Skittles and Puppy Dogs” category. It was bad news for anyone who has been stubborn, unaware, or oblivious for the past 20 years and who had no intention of doing anything to change their life to be better prepared. Apparently, one of my readers fit such a description because he elected to chastise me for posting some of the articles that I did that day with the comment “So much for your ‘PANIC FREE’ preparedness.” In other words, he chose to interpret the mere existence of “bad news” as a reason for any “normal” person to panic. Perhaps he expected me to only report the good news or pass along the jokes or feel good little pictures on the site. But peaceful preparedness doesn’t exist merely because there’s an absence of crises; peace exists because of the our level of readiness for those crises. The same is said of courage—it’s not the absence of fear, it’s the ability to take action in spite of the fear. Mind you, that thought process merits an exploration all on its own, but for the purpose of this article I want to circle back around to the value that practice plays into the development of that peace in spite of the reality of circumstances. Let’s face it, scary stuff is out there and on its way to our doorsteps regardless of whether or not it’s discussed on the news. Our awareness of it doesn’t make it any less or more real. (In fact, I think that the more people are beginning to see that the more scary something is, the less likely they are to hear about it. So “ready or not, here it comes”, right?) But what transforms that threat from “the final nail in the coffin” to “one of life’s great teaching moments” will have a LOT to do with how we practiced we are in preparing for it.
When I first shot a firearm about 14 years ago, it’s was just a little itty bitty thing; just a small handgun with a small caliber. But that one single shot was all it took to scare the blue blazes out of me and I’m embarrassed to say that I totally lost it. I don’t even remember putting the firearm down in a safe manner. All I know is that I squeezed the trigger and then this flood of emotion came over me and all I wanted to do was cry. By the time my poor husband was done loading everything back into the car after all of the effort we went to just for me to fire that one single shot, I WAS crying—the ugly cry. But today, one of my favorite exercises at the range is to fire off my entire magazine towards a 1 inch target as fast as I can. I don’t flinch with the sound now BUT… the first time I shot my firearm without my hearing protection on, that was a whole different kind of rattling. And yet, so few firearm enthusiasts never practice a few shots without their hearing protection even though there’s not even a 99% chance that they’ll have it on if they ever have to defend themselves with a firearm. I can just see it now… *squeaky baby voice* “Uh, Mr. Bad Guy, would you please wait one moment while I go get my hearing protection on so that I can shoot you?” That’s why I periodically will shoot a few shots without hearing protection; I’ve practiced shooting while in a vehicle (thank you, Farmer Ray for letting us shoot out the window of your old clunker so that we’re not totally freaked out if I had to use my firearm amidst a carjacking); I practice shooting with my weak hand; and I practice shooting when I’m totally winded and exhausted from running in place. I encourage my students to shoot their firearm at the range with the room dark so that they aren’t freaked out with the fireburst that’s visible in a low light situation just in case they have to defend themselves in the middle of the night—gee, ya think that’s more likely than in the middle of the day?
Here’s the cool thing about preparedness—if you actually practice living like you might find yourself living in the midst of a disaster then you will be in a valuable asset position to help your loved ones and community. But if you have all the “stuff” in the world, it won’t help you one iota if you just fall apart and go into the ugly cry. (I’m happy to say that NONE of my students has ever gone into the ugly cry. *YAY*) Here’s the not-so-cool thing about preparedness—the moment that the crisis hits, the time for preparation is done. Finished. No do-overs. No delete and re-record, Friends. You can’t fake your way through a crisis either. (I’ve seen a whole lot of people on reality TV lately who are foolish enough to use the moment in front of national television to be the time that they try something NEW—and believe me, it’s just downright painful to watch…”doomsday”…cough…cough )
Speaking of TV, let me end on this note. I was flipping channels the other night and ran across this random “reality” television show. It was a bunch of self-proclaimed rednecks who were paid to go on a big family vacation in a beautiful castle in England. Surrounded by acres of perfectly manicured lawns, gorgeous décor, maids and a butler to wait on them hand and foot, yet they were miserable because they couldn’t find their preferred beer, they couldn’t get sports on a television and they were served a bunch of very unfamiliar meals at a table setting worth of the Queen herself. It wasn’t until the men in the crowd were able to go and hunt squirrels and cook them up that you finally saw smiles on their faces (much to the horror of their host, of course).
I suspect we’ve all had our share of “curtain time” jitters, moments of anxiety, or being so stressed out that we just want to melt into nothing. But I know that if we’ll focus on practicing with what we plan, we’ll have a huge benefit of exposing our holes in our preparedness before they become a life or death scenario and we can improve accordingly. Ultimately it’s not the things that protect us or give us peace, it the practice.